Thursday, October 4, 2012

Branching story technique #4: Embed Important Background Content in Player Dialog Choices

Branching stories are simple sims where players make a series of decisions to shape and advance a story. I have found ten surprisingly easy and effective "little" techniques to make them much richer.

Here is the fourth. Typically, there are pieces of background information that are necessary to set up the scenario.  Perhaps the on-screen character to whom you are talking just got back from Africa or just got a big promotion (and, of course, these facts matter).  While most branching stories have some type of the pedagogical "set up" explaining the scenario and goals, I do everything I can to keep this tight.  First, shortening the set-up can avoid tipping off the player, and also, I just like to get players in the action as soon as possible.

In this example, it is important to realize the person is married.  So I present that information as such:

It does not matter if the player selects this speaking option or not.  (The answer from the character may just be some throw-away line anyway, like "Thanks!" or "You hear everything!")  The important thing is the player learns this context information just by seeing the option.

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